CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture)

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed so much of our daily life, including how we get our food. The early meatpacking plant closures due to COVID-19 spread and the previously unimaginable shortages in supermarkets have caused many of us to question the safety and resilience of the dominant food system in America. In addition, concerns for safety during the pandemic have led many (especially those in higher risk categories) to prefer groceries delivered to their homes rather than shop in person at grocery stores. With this in mind, it makes sense to look at other options for getting safe, fresh, local, and healthful food. Fortunately, many local farmers in San Diego County offer a way to safely get fresh, local, and healthful food: through CSA boxes.

What is a CSA?

CSA stands for “community supported agriculture.” Generally, it works like this: a person buys and receives a “share” of the food coming from a farm over a set period of time. For example, you might purchase a three-month subscription that gets you a weekly box of fresh produce based on what’s ready to be picked that week. CSAs enable the farmer to be sure there will be a buyer for a portion of what they produce and helps support the farmer if they have a tough year due to, say, drought. CSA members get to support our local food system while sharing in the bounty when the harvests are record-setting.

Why Are CSA’s So Popular Right Now?

Across the country, there’s been an increase in CSA subscriptions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic (see As Food Supply Chain Breaks Down, Farm-to-Door CSA Chains Take Off) and for good reason. Many individuals don’t want to be as dependent on an industrial food system that far too often puts workers in unsafe working conditions for low wages. Many of us are cooking more at home and want a wider range of ingredients to work with – an area where CSA’s excel because you often get ingredients you’ve never prepared before. Many of us are especially focused on supporting local businesses these days so that our local economies can survive this dire situation. And if you can get your share at an outdoor location or have it delivered directly to your home rather than going into a store where a lot of other people may be, all the better!

What’s the Best CSA for You to Join?

There are many great CSA programs in San Diego County. There are also some programs that may not be a traditional CSAs but provide similar services. 

Note: Many CSAs have been inundated with new customers since the start of the pandemic to the point that some are no longer accepting new members.

To help you find the best CSA, we’ve taken a look at all the CSA’s we know of in San Diego County and identified those that are accepting new customers and offer products that are organic (as well as regenerative in some cases). Good for you and good for the planet! 

Be Wise

Pickup Location(s): Over a dozen locations, spanning beach areas, north county coastal, east county, central, and north inland San Diego
About Be Wise: Be Wise produce is Certified Organic, and the farm recycles local green waste into compost to improve the mineral and nutrient content of the soil. According to their website, “Bill Brammer, owner of Be Wise Ranch, has been committed to sustainable agriculture since the early days of the organic movement, and during his five-year term as the state president of California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF), helped draft the state and federal legislation that defined organic standards for the industry.”
This one comes personally recommended – one of our committee members got a CSA through Be Wise for a couple years and was very pleased with the quality, quantity, and variety of the produce, as well as the ability to skip a week and get a credit when travelling.
Be Wise Website

Grow Eco Farm

Delivery Areas: El Cajon, La Mesa, and nearby
About Grow Eco Farm: Grow Eco Farm is a small farm practicing regenerative agriculture to rebuild depleted soil and contribute to reducing carbon emissions. They do all this while also growing delicious food for you! Farmer Andy says he “helps people looking to make a positive contribution to the crises of climate change and biodiversity loss by delivering fresh produce grown in ways that restore depleted soil and create habitat for threatened species.” He cautions that “these days, even organic farms are using more and more chemicals…toxins that leave the soil dead with no place for wildlife, especially when they’re sprayed in the vast quantities that giant industrial farms use.” As Farmer Andy says, regenerative agriculture “increases biodiversity, enriches soils, improves watersheds, and enhances ecosystem services, such as water purification, or carbon sequestration.”
Grow Eco Farm Website

Jared’s Real Food

Delivery Area & Pickup Location(s): Lakeside
About Jared’s Real Food: Jared’s Real Food was established to promote health and optimal living for everyone. It is a small, people-centered, and ecologically conscious artisan farm that grows top quality nutrient dense vegetable, fruit, and herb varieties. Using regenerative and holistic farming practices, Jared’s focus is always first and foremost on the health of their soil.
CSA bags are available weekly, every other week, or monthly with farm pick up on Saturdays and for home delivery on Monday and Thursday. Whatever is ripe and looking ready to eat that particular week is what they include in the bags. This means the produce you get in the CSA is seasonal and changes throughout the year.
Jared’s Real Food Website

JR Organics

Delivery Area: Home deliveries available throughout much of San Diego County
Pickup Location(s): 20 pickup locations in San Diego County, serving mainly North County and the city of San Diego
About JR Organics: JR Organics was certified organic in 1986 and grows 100% organic. According to their website, “The growing practices used include the finest fertilizers, compost, beneficial insects and proper soil management.” They employ crop rotation and allow beneficial weeds that “bring up nutrients in the soil and add taste to the crops.” They also make their own compost on-farm.
The JR Organics CSA offers a large-size box and a smaller-size box, and you can order ahead 2, 4, 6, or 12 weeks.
One of our committee members has been regularly enjoying a JR Organics box (as part of “Mystery Box” purchases on the Market Box SD platform, which is also featured on this page) and can report that the quality and variety of the produce has been excellent!
JR Organics Website

Market Box SD

Delivery Area: San Diego County
Pickup Location(s): El Cajon
About Market Box SD: Created specifically to address the effects of the pandemic on farmers, distributors, etc., Market Box SD is not technically a CSA (though you can easily get a produce share from JR Organics through it) but an online platform that lets you order a wide variety of plant-based products from area farmers and producers. One of our committee members has gotten several deliveries through the service and highly recommends them.
Place your order online a few days in advance and then you can pick up your order at their El Cajon location (see their website for pick up schedule) – or for an additional fee, they will deliver to your door. Check out the Shop Local page to get a sense of their product offerings and start filling your cart. If you don’t want to order a la carte, select the “Mystery Box” option to get a CSA-like selection of produce, dry goods, vegan cheese, and other delights.
Market Box SD Website

Sage Mountain Farm

Delivery/Pickup Areas: La Jolla, Del Mar to Julian, La Mesa, Point Loma, North Park, Hillcrest, and most of San Diego (but not south San Diego)
About Sage Mountain Farm: Sage Mountain Farm has been practicing organic agriculture for 16 years and incorporates regenerative practices as well. The farm applies compost that they create onsite from organic waste such a crop residue not fed to the farm animals and manure, and the farm utilizes cover crops to improve soil quality and reduce soil erosion. As they say on their blog, “With the importation of organic inputs such as manures, composts, and recycling of on-farm organic matter, we condition the soil with healthy, organic plant nutrients that feed the plants, which in turn feed you!” The farm is located in Anza, California, in order to be far away from any other farms that might not be organic.
Sage Mountain Farm Website

Sand n’ Straw Community Farm

Pickup Location(s): Vista
About Sand n’ Straw: Using regenerative agriculture practices, Sand n’ Straw has created a six-acre sustainable farm in Vista, CA. The CSA Share (Farm Box) is a weekly program that includes greens, root crops, herbs, and vegetables. Customers receive 10-12 items in the share, but the farm also gives you the option of picking out your own produce. Farm Box Shares are available as a quarterly subscription that is 13 weeks long. 
Sand n’ Straw Website

Seabreeze Farm

Delivery Areas: North Zone: north of Interstate 56 to Oceanside and west of Interstate 15. South Zone: south of Interstate 56 to Interstate 94 and west of Interstate 15
Pickup Location: At the farm in Carmel Valley
About Seabreeze Farm: A true family farm, Seabreeze Farm has been growing vegetables, flowers, fruits and herbs for San Diegans since 1988, using organic practices. Their quest is “to ensure a safe, clean and traceable food system – from farms to family.” “We live on the land, grow nutritious produce, lovingly care for our farm animals, promote biodiversity and protect our environment.” Seabreeze delivers directly to your home or office on a convenient weekly, bi-weekly or every 3rd week schedule. CSA members going away on vacation can opt to have their share donated to a local military family in need instead. 
Seabreeze Farm Website

For information on more CSAs, see San Diego Edible’s Map of Farms with CSAs in San Diego County.